Hello all, welcome to my online poker blog.

I've been playing on and off for a decade after being introduced by a friend.

I played regularly for a few years during the poker boom and had a decent record at the micros, particularly Rush and Zoom No Limit Hold'em games (here's one of my graphs).

Around 2012 I began a new career which involved immersing myself completely in study in my spare time, so I had little to no time for poker. However recently this burden has eased and so I have been gradually dipping back in.

I'm an amateur player who still hopes to some day beat the rake.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

So, to a new dawn and a new day.

God I'm going to miss Rush poker. Regular play seems soooo slow now. Plus the Rush interface was so easy and intuitive... Well according to some reports no matter what happens with Full Tilt, the Rush format is a valuable asset that's likely to be sold to a competitor. Who? I just hope it's a good firm. Stars ideally.

Anyway, enough of that. So I've decided to put a small deposit (£200) on PokerStars and I will attempt to grow a decent bankroll again from scratch. I think that if I table select well then I can definitely achieve a positive win rate. I played 400k hands of micro rush as a winner (although most recent 200k was break even) and I was unable to practise table selection at all.

Now that volume is a concern I'm going to have to think about maximising the growth of my investment. I've heard that people have tried using a Kelly system before with differing results. I feel that I have many of the attributes that could make such a system work - I have no trouble moving up or down in stakes as and when it will be required. I also have reasonable tilt control. I wouldn't say I was a champ in this regard, but certainly towards the top end of the spectrum. I'm usually happy to sit out when I feel that emotions are taking over. I'll use a half Kelly system and simply move up and down as and when I move across the stake thresholds.

This should be an interesting experiment for me. I'll probably play a mixture of full ring and 6 max games and really look for the soft spots (tight 3-bettors behind, fish to my right etc).

I think it will take me time to adjust so there's no time to waste. Stars here I come!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Farewell Rush, you made me better for sure.

The DOJ struck a fatal blow, AGC put the dying creature out of it's misery.

I will really miss the Rush games, the largest reason being the amount of volume I was able to play. Rush cuts out all the unnecessary waiting time that occurs in online poker. I will need to manage around 12 tables to come close to my hands/hour now.

However, life goes on. My bankroll at Black Friday stood at $900, but I'm not overly angry that the money has gone. While reading an article about the economic melt down back in March it suddenly occurred to me that the poker sites could easily be subject to a similar run on the bank and so I withdrew 2/3 of my bankroll. I don't mean that to sound like a brag, I just got lucky.

I must consider where to play next. Stars? Will Alderney revoke their license too? EDIT: PokerStars are licensed on the Isle of Man who have confirmed that the license is safe. They are an option because of player fund segregation. I might just play pennies on Sky poker until things have settled.

Final word, I hope a new site takes up Rush. It's a great way to play poker. Even if they do not, I played 400 k hands in a year. Probably 4x the experience I'd have gained otherwise. I feel for anyone who has lost a job, money or income from the disastrous Black Friday indictment.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Week Off Almost Over

... and back to work in the morning. It's pretty obvious I've spent most of my time this week learning about poker and looking at spots that were causing me problems. I feel that I've internalised a lot of concepts and really made some improvement. I don't necessarily think it will make a huge difference to my game, but perhaps a small one. Perhaps enough that I will begin to realise some sort of edge in the games again. This is my graph for the last week. I've undoubtedly run well during that period, I have to admit. My stats for the period:

Improvements over that period:
1/ Playing more hands. The raise - c-bet set up has always been a key component of profit. Since Black Friday there is a lot of loose passives in the games and I don't think that I have been quite taking enough advantage of people who regularly put dead money in the pot preflop then fold to 60%+ c-bets.
2/ 3-betting a little more often. Another key component that can really make more bluff money if we choose the right spots.
3/ Greater general aggression.
4/ Floating a little less widely and looking to raise rather than call in situations where it is likely a close EV decision between the two.

Well, I doubt that I will post quite so often now that work will once again take up my time. To be fair, a gazillion posts a day was probably a bit ott anyway. Well, until I post again good luck at the tables. I shall leave you with a song that I cannot get out of my head at the moment.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Edge

Just a short post really, I think I'm coming to understand the delicacy in NLHE win rates. For a good while I have been a break even player. I've discussed some of the reasons previously; my poor win rate from the button and big blind are good examples.
But if we look at the macro picture, I believe that the overall game conditions have changed and I haven't adjusted.

As far as I see it, poker profit is the difference between money won at showdown and money won without showdown. Micro stakes games are usually beaten by making money from showing down with the best hand. However, if a player does not control his non showdown winnings sufficiently then each will cancel each other out. I think that just lately the Rush games have got a little nittier, and so there hasn't quite been as much showdown money to be made. To compensate, I should have upped my aggression a good while back to ensure that I maintained an edge. I didn't do that and so I reached a situation where my showdown winnings were cancelled out by no showdown losses. I think that I have now made the correct adjustment: my red line (no showdown losses) is now shallower than before and I feel that I have rediscovered a small edge in the games.

I think it's so important to game select if you truly want to remain profitable. Of course that's not possible in Rush poker, and if I ever felt that the edge had dried up I'd go back to normal games. But if you're ever in a game where you don't feel that you can create a clear edge between your showdown winnings and no showdown winnings then you're just gifting money to the poker site.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Big Blind, I Suck. #4

Just been browsing the knowledgeable Cardrunners' forums about blind defence. It's a members only forum I believe so I'll quote a post by pro player Pokey put up a few months back (i.e. relevant)

" I have a non-traditional approach to blind defense, and I'm sure that other pros on the site will disagree with me, but here's how I handle it:

1. I rarely cold-call from the blinds. My approach is to either 3-bet or fold. I will overcall if circumstances warrant and I'm holding a good speculative hand, but even there I'll get quite frisky and frequently donkbet the flop to put significant pressure on the preflop raiser.

2. Against a person who steals too often, I 3-bet liberally with the intention of folding to a 4-bet fairly frequently and punishing with a huge 5-bet (ideally all-in) when I have the goods. When I 3-bet it is large -- usually 4x their raise -- with the intention of preventing light floats. Knowing that I'll be out of position the whole hand through, I want to either end the hand very quickly or at least chop down their implied odds (and therefore their maneuvering room) postflop. "

Pokey - Cardrunners' forum

Elsewhere on the site I've seen pros advocate flatting with some of your range and 3-betting a polarised one. The different views from some excellent players lead me to believe that the expected value of each strategy is somewhat close and that either option is OK. I like Pokey's logic and reasoning, and the other player to advocate this style of blind defence is Cole South who has played in some of the toughest games online.

Personally I feel much more comfortable playing with the betting lead, but I do want to test myself and my ability to play out of position post flop.

In theory I like the sound of Pokey's approach, but I need to figure out some ranges to play against a variety of different opening frequencies. In my #3 post on this subject I learned some sound advice regarding not 3-betting at all versus UTG through Hijack ranges. I could flat a range like {88+, AQ+, AJs, KQs, QJs, JTs} against a standard 10% open, knowing that the big pairs defend against an opponent that likes to barrel multiple streets. I can maximise the value of those hands while providing some protection against my mid pair hands (that I currently have to fold frequently to turn double barrels).

When things get to the CO and Button I can begin to reverse this approach and 3-bet a merged range versus both players that like to call (then my range becomes top heavy against a capped range which should cancel the positional disadvantage somewhat) and those that like to fold (we probably gain as much equity from the dead money preflop than we would in a pot out of position without the betting lead). If we are going to try and play back around 12-15% of the time then we should probably be raising about 6% of hands for value : {99+, AJ+} and a bunch of semi bluff raises (hands that have around 40-45% equity or more versus a typical calling range). The following graphic shows what I consider to be a reasonable resteal range that works out at around 16%.

Graphic is a screenshot of free poker tool Hold'em Viewer

I'm currently folding a ton of those hands to button and cut off raises, and they all have more than 45% equity against a loose raise. This seems wrong to me, even out of position.

I quite like the idea of playing the range in the graphic by 3-betting but occasionally randomising and calling with the top x%. This really would give opponents a hard time hand reading as my range would be typically much stronger than a normal blind defence range when this happened.

In conclusion, I have found a ton of information this week regarding this difficult poker situation. I think it's time I put some of the ideas in these posts into practise in my games and see how it works out over 100k hands or so. As a break even player, I've nothing to lose! GL

Friday, 24 June 2011


This week I've been playing as well as studying in order to try and clear my (virtual) Rush week bonus from FTP. Here's the graph for the last couple of weeks. I think that the improvement to the red line portion of the graph is good. In my previous databases there's been a steeper downward trend.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with graphs like this, the red line is 'non-showdown winnings' and for the vast majority of players it is negative, the primary reason for this loss being the blinds. I shan't try and explain it thoroughly, just take my word that most winning players have a shallow descending red line and make their profit through the blue line - that is going to showdown with the best hand more often than their opponents.

To me that seems like a very manageable red line, although of course I could just be getting some good bluffing opportunities. If my increased knowledge is helping me to find better bluff spots and I have indeed improved the red line part of my strategy then hopefully that will get me back to winning ways because suddenly I don't have to make quite so much money with my made hands before I start making a profit. As always I will post again when the sample size gets bigger.

I won't pretend that my game has suddenly come round, I'm pretty sure I'm a break even player; my positional stats are still horrible for the button and the big blind but at least - despite that - I've made profit over the most recent stretch of hands which has to be a good thing. GL

A Little More on Planning (from last post)

So it's one thing to say "yeah we'll check raise and barrel on these 20 cards on the turn" - but if we hardly ever get the sorts of flops where this is possible then we'll still be just check folding most of the time after the flop. So I just powered up pokerazor to Monte Carlo some flops for KJs and this is what I found:

1 KJs flops good straight OR flush draws around 14% in total
2 KJs flops the above plus {a back door flush draw AND overcards} 30% of the time in total
3 KJs flops the above plus {a gutshot AND overcards} 31.75% of the time
4 KJs flops the above plus {a back door flush draw AND gutshot} 35.65% of the time

Now this doesn't tell us anything about the flop texture but we'll have top pair or better a further 25% of the time meaning we can check raise about 60% of flops. This seems like quite a lot and is obviously bluff biased. But, if we barrel nearly half of our bluffs on the turn then this would be around 40% - 45% of the time and then on the river about 30% - 35%. I don't know what the exact numbers would be to be optimally balanced here with this line, but it seems to me that we're using the principle of letting some bluffs drop out on each street and ending up with a balanced river value/bluff range.

Of course this strategy could also be utilised for flop c-betting. Use this information how you will, I just think that using a combination of major draws plus added together minor draws gives us a pretty decent flop bluffing range with a hand like KJs and is likely the reason many good players use a similar approach. GL

Big Blind, I Suck. #3

I have been studying some statistics from winning players and I'm really losing tons and tons more money from the bb than I should compared to them. Some players are losing around half of what I am. Considering that I play around 10% of hands the only logical conclusion is that I'm not getting into enough pots versus wide ranges in the CO, BTN and SB - even out of position.

I found a thread on DeucesCracked about 6-max win rates and although the figures cannot be the same for full ring one of the posts by a coach gave the following blind leaks:
1/ Calling too much in sb
2/ Not squeezing enough when sb calls
3/ 3-betting our best hands versus UTG through HJ

4/ Set mining in the blinds
5/ Not stealing enough from the sb
6/ Learning to play a suitable range from the bb versus the co/button
I have highlighted the spots where I need the most improvement.

I'm going to begin to flat my best hands versus UTG ranges and play them post flop unless I have a strong read that villain calls too much when facing 3-bets. In this case I'll 3-bet perhaps a range like {QQ+, AK}. Currently there are many regs who open around 10% of hands, and knowing that I can only realistically 3-bet AA, KK for value versus that kind of range I've been 3-betting those hands and folding everything else except for an occasional bluff. By calling I can get more value post flop when villain double barrels with little to no equity, and I protect the more marginal hands that I call with in this situation like 99-QQ, AK etc. This should make a small difference.

I will look for more spots to squeeze small blind callers, even with any two cards if the initial raiser has a wide enough range and at least some ability to fold when facing a 3-bet. Again, this should make a small positive difference to my win rate.

Finally I need to build a range to defend my big blind facing a raise from the CO or Button. Filtering the last 20k hands for this situation there has been 338 hands and I've lost at almost 100bb/100. That is, if I'd folded every single hand I'd have lost the same amount of money. God, I really am coming to realise how much work is needed on my game to improve from d-grade to even c-grade. In this situation I must strive to win some of this money back.

Forward Planning
A big weapon in blind defence is the flop check raise. I will not donk at all for now and just focus on creating a profitable check raise strategy. Often in the past I've seen a flop and thought it made a good one for a check raise but when suddenly called I've had no idea how to proceed on the turn. We need to fire again (as a bluff) when either our actual equity improves, or our fold equity improves. So that I'm not playing exploitable 'one and done' poker I need at least 20 cards (on average) in the deck that I can barrel that give me one or both of these results. [The reason I pick 20 is that we then guarantee that we're continuing with our bluffs a little more than 43% of the time which seems reasonable from a theoretical view]

I played a hand last night that fit this plan. A reg (who is decent) raised in mid position. I called in the big blind with KJo and the flop came TT9 with two diamonds (giving me back door diamond draw with the king). I decided to check raise planning to barrel when any diamond comes out along with any ace, king or queen. That gives me 20 cards out of 47 that I can barrel on, and each generally increases my equity or my fold equity. He did call and the turn was an ace - one of my planned barrel cards. I bet and got a pretty quick fold.

There will be no more play from me that does not fit this principal of planning. As a result I will become a more difficult opponent. Whether it improves my blind win rate of course remains to be seen.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Learning Experience : Implied Odds

Well, this week off has been really useful in terms of learning about poker. One of the leaks that Leak Buster picked up on was playing flush draws passively on the turn. I'm pretty sure I did the implied odds calculations a long time ago, but for some reason over the two or three years since I've picked up the habit of playing flush draws passively on the turn "hoping to hit and WIN" - a very fishy mentality. So I went back over the maths on a piece of paper and it really has hit home how much implied odds are needed to play a flush draw passively on the turn just in the hope of hitting it on the river.

Implied Odds on The Turn

I shan't go over too many calculations (indeed I may have got some of this wrong, please correct if so) but the EV of your call is:
EV = P(x)*(current pot + future profit) - (1 - P(x))*(bet to call)
[P(x) is the probability we win on the river or in other words the equity of our draw in this case]
If we set EV = 0 and rearrange for future profit we get:
future profit = {(1 - P(x))*(bet to call) - P(x)*(current pot)}/P(x)
This equation tells us what the break even future profit should be in order to justify a call.

Right you don't need to know that formula I just wanted to demonstrate where I'm getting my results from. I have used a couple of examples in pokerazor and I think my calculations are pretty close but again, my maths isn't that good so correct me if you find any errors.

If we must call a half pot sized bet on the turn and assuming we have 20% equity with our flush draw then:
future profit = {0.8*(0.5) - 0.2}/0.2 = 1
That is, we need to win - on average - the current pot size in future profit to justify calling using the immediate odds.

We have AhKd on Qh7h4h2d and we know for certain (somehow) that villain has a set from the flop. Our equity according to stove is 0.18 but let's assume it's 0.2 which is close enough. Villain bets $7.5 into a pot of $15 and has $7.5 remaining. This is a situation where I've called in the past but calling is not correct because we can only win $7.5 on the river. Villain would need $15 behind and always call it off when our draw comes in to make this a break even turn call. I can think of some situations where we might call in this instance (assuming villain has $15+ behind on the river) but we'd need to be sure he is calling almost all of the time when our draw gets there.

If we must call a pot sized bet on the turn:
future profit = {0.8 - 0.2}/0.2 = 3
So now, we need to win 3 times the current pot size on average to make calling correct. I can't ever see a situation where this is going to be close to being true. Thinking of our example before, when villain bets $15 into the $15 turn pot we need him to pay us off on average $45 on the river which would be a pot sized river bet. We'd have to be damn sure he has a strong hand and also that he never folds on scary boards to even merely break even in this spot, and to profit we'd need to over bet and always get called. Sounds pretty thin, huh?

So I'm going to try really hard from now on to make these hands semi bluffs rather than passive draws. If I have the betting initiative then I can at least double barrel with these hands; if I meet aggression at any point after the flop then the best play is most often going to be to fold.

Most unmade hands on the turn are going to have pretty shitty equity so it's probably very sensible at the micro limits to be turn barreling in just a few good situations and folding the rest of the time. I currently c-bet around 65% of the time and turn barrel 45%. These numbers actually seem pretty reasonable to me so I don't think I'm far off. Hopefully my improved play with draws will get me an extra buy-in or two per 100k hands. GL

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Leak Buster FTW!

I shan't go into too much about the software (other than recommending it) but it provides a bunch of useful filters for use within the HEM database. One of these filters is
"Had top pair good kicker or worse on the turn in a single raised pot and saw a showdown."
I have lost a huge amount of money in this spot, 21.5 buy-ins.


According to the video (leak buster, not Back to the Future) this should be an area where we're making money and I've absolutely butchered this situation for the last 100k plus hands.

If I had been just break even in this spot (my obvious goal for the next stretch of hands) then I'd be $500 richer. I think that this significant leak should now become my main focus for improvement because that would instantly catapult my win rate skywards.

I think some of the main problems are these:
1/ Calling flop c-bets too often; I should fold more and switch some of the calling hands into bluff hands and have a clear plan for barrelling the turn when I do this.
2/ Playing draws too passively on the flop and calling turn bets with draws where the immediate odds nor the implied odds are good enough
3/ Going to showdown with pairs worse than top pair too often (calling more than one street of betting)
4/ Attempting to bluff calling stations across multiple streets
5/ Attempting to bluff catch straight forward villains (who likely have value heavy ranges by the river)
So, just a couple of things wrong then lol. Wow, if I can fix this significant leak and prove it over a good sample of hands then this software will have paid for itself within 15k hands. GL

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Big Blind, I Suck #2

So I was browsing the 2+2 forums (still the best place for poker research) and came upon this old thread about playing in the blinds. In particular I noticed a quote from member 'CTS' - Cole South - who said:

"For the next week, if the (CO or) BTN opens and everyone else folds to you in the BB(/SB), never call. Fold or reraise.

This should help you get a hang of it (and is basically how I play anyways)."

This thread is old by five years but I have heard others say more recently that taking the initiative in button vs blind battles is good and that it's easier to play oop in 3-bet pots. I currently call in the big blind nearly twice as often as I raise, and I think that this is a leak.

Another good thread I just found.

I currently share a lot of similarities with the creator of the thread, and fold very often versus a steal.

TwoPlusTwo coach DayCareInferno has this fine post to offer on playing the blinds.

Right, I think that's enough information for now. Time to look at my database. GL

Edit: I've looked through a couple of thousand hands in my database and definitely found a few spots where I made mistakes. The biggest flaws in my game are:
1/ Not value 3-betting widely enough against players who steal very wide and also hardly ever fold to 3-bets. Playing a fixed 3-bet range (or close to one) is just terrible; great things happen by taking the initiative with hands that are favourite over bad opponents.
2/ Not 3-betting lightly enough against players who do fold a lot of the time versus 3-bets. Specifically I found several examples of situations where I had good bluffing hands like low pocket pairs or suited aces and just folded despite the stealer's fold to 3-bet statistic being very high. A re-steal needs to work 70% of the time to be immediately profitable. There are plenty of players (like me) who fold more than that when facing re-steal 3-bets. In other words I need to specifically tailor my strategy based upon villain in this situation (durrr, u don't say?).

I have also made the decision to purchase and use the application Leak Buster. I used a trial a couple of years ago and didn't feel at the time it really justified the outlay but wow has it moved on! I think if I really make as much use as I can of this software along with the knowledge I have already I can turn the corner and get back to winning ways. Recommended!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Attempting more Exploitation

So I've learned a lot over the last 6 months about balancing play and how ranges need protection against exploitation. This is true, and I've begun to attempt to fix my largest preflop leak that is the gap between hands that I raise and hands that I four bet with. However I think that I've begun to deviate too much from exploitative strategy which is where most of our money comes from.

Example hand

NL Holdem $0.25(BB) Replayer Game#31159316078

bysnake ($25.35)
foleq ($25)
ParalyzerBS ($25)
Katherine1992 ($25.15)
Biarum ($25.10)
Predator2211 ($26.13)
Zplan ($24.64)
Skogen2513 ($24.64)
Hero ($33.30)

bysnake posts (SB) $0.10
foleq posts (BB) $0.25

Dealt to Hero Kd Kc
ParalyzerBS raises to $1
fold, fold, fold, fold, fold,
Hero calls $1
fold, fold,
FLOP ($2.35) 3c 9d 2h
ParalyzerBS bets $1.50
Hero calls $1.50
TURN ($5.35) 3c 9d 2h 4d
ParalyzerBS bets $2
Hero calls $2
RIVER ($9.35) 3c 9d 2h 4d 3h
ParalyzerBS bets $3
Hero raises to $7.25
ParalyzerBS calls $4.25
Hero shows Kd Kc
(Pre 81%, Flop 91.6%, Turn 95.5%)

ParalyzerBS shows Ts Td
(Pre 19%, Flop 8.4%, Turn 4.5%)

Hero wins $22.66

Now for a good while I've just been auto 3-betting big hands here because I don't want my 3-bet ranges to become imbalanced. But in this case my opponent was folding to the vast majority of 3-bets but also barrelling pretty lightly post flop over multiple streets. So from an EV perspective (and forgetting playing optimally) it is a far superior play against this opponent to flat preflop and let him bet three streets with a wide range. Occasionally we'll lose where villain makes a better hand. But far more often we'll keep a ton of his bluffs in and make much more than we would had we got him to fold out 90% of his range. We need a bluff heavy 3-bet range and a value heavy calling range.

While I'm pleased with the things I've learned recently about game theory and optimal play, I have deviated too far from the way I used to play before I moved to 25NL. I used to treat each situation and each villain based upon my perception of his range and his situational tendencies. Trying to play more optimally has taken my exploitative profit away. I'm certainly a more knowledgeable player now that I've learned the new theory, but to return to winning ways I am going to stop trying to play in a certain way unless it's to prevent a good opponent exploiting me. Currently that means I just need to four bet back enough against liberal 3-bettors.

One last point about this is that the games are super weak since Black Friday. There isn't a single regular that I can currently think of that isn't weak in some way and there are tons of loose passive fish. So I've really been emphasising value lately and it's beginning to pay off imo. I have been going to showdown a lot less often and winning at showdown a lot more often while only sacrificing a little of my no showdown winnings. In the long run, I'm pretty sure that I'll converge upon a decent win rate again. GL

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Button, I Suck. #2

Hey, well I continued some work on preflop equities today after I watched a leak finder video. There were situations where the button called a 3-bet from the blinds. Now, I've always been led to believe that this situation is good for the button providing the blind has a big enough range; however it's also a situation where I've never really begun calling either. I'd play 4-bet or fold much too often.

As far as the maths goes, most of the time we face a 3-bet it's a pot sized bet and so our hand needs at least 33% equity to continue. Given the advantage of playing in position and implied odds I'm going to lower this to 30% for these calculations. If villain is 3-betting a tight range from the blinds, say {QQ+, AK} then we can profitably call with the following range:

{ 22+,AKs,A5s,87s,76s,65s,54s,AKo }

(I've included the hands we'd 4-bet for value with too as I just want to make a point). So any pocket pair and some suited connectors. Even against a very tight range! This is probably really obvious to many players but it's only just hit home now as I've worked through the calculations.

OK, how about a looser blind 3-bet range, say {99+, AQ+}? We can profitably call with:

{ 22+,ATs+,A8s-A2s,K4s+,QTs+,J8s+,T8s+,87s,76s,65s,54s,AQo+,KJo,JTo }

There are players who have been 3-betting me nearly ten percent from the blinds and the reason why is because I've been mucking almost all of the hands above. Instead of making a profitable call I've been giving money away.

A quick word of warning : I think it would be easy to begin to spew with these ranges post flop so care must be taken but I think players would certainly be more careful with their 3-bets if I continued using my current four bet range (which is pretty balanced imo) and also begun calling with some of these profitable hands.

With this new information I'm going to draw up some new preflop ranges tomorrow. My early and middle position strategy will not change as almost all 3-bets I face will have position on me thus a 4-bet or fold strategy is likely to be optimal. But for the cut off and button I will create ranges with polarised 4-b sets and a calling set for playing against the blinds. As always I'll let you know how the new strategy fares over the next few thousand hands. GL

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Button, I Suck. #1

Similar to the process I'm using for improving my blind play I will also post about my efforts to improve my button play. A trend that I've noticed is that my button steal c-bets don't seem to get much respect. This is probably due to two reasons:
1/ Villains in the blinds tend to flat with a reasonably strong range on average
2/ Villains in the blinds know that I have a huge range when c-betting (if they have any sort of brain function)

So where does button stealing gain it's profitability? Just recently I've really been trying to win those pots before showdown and playing very aggressively in this particular spot, but I just feel like I'm spewing now and it's shown in my recent results where I'm making good money in all positions but the button.

Perhaps I've got it wrong, and the most significant portion of profit comes from preflop fold equity and we should only play aggressively on the flop when we have equity - perhaps better than 35% or so versus a typical villain's blind calling range.

I think it's really time that I put in a lot of hours trying to memorise the equity different hands have on different board textures. If I can learn tons and tons of them, flop play should become much easier because I can target hands that fall in certain equity 'bands' for different plays.

Anyway, the learning curve continues and it's awesome having some things to focus on improving instead of the endless 'woe is me' cycle I was stuck in during the first few months of the year. GL

Quick update, I filtered my previous HEM database for hands that I opened first in from the button, didn't face a 3-bet and saw a flop. I'm basically making a small amount of money given the preflop actions being true - and I'm totally happy with this. I'm going to the flop with a much weaker range than my opponents typically but coming out on top. I need to look elsewhere for my leaks I feel.

I also found that my button c-bets actually have a higher success rate than anywhere else on the table (despite what I said earlier in the post)! Again, I think my leaks must lie elsewhere, and I wonder if it might be folding to 3-bets too much...

In this situation I've only called 4% of the time, and four bet 12.5% of the time. Either this means that I'm facing a value 3-bet the vast majority of the time - which could be true - or I'm folding too much in this situation, and this could also be true. I'll need to delve deeper into this I think.

Unfortunately this leak finding will have to wait until tomorrow (or maybe later). I'll post any further conclusions at a future time.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A quick look at the last 4k hands

A few posts ago I identified some of the areas where I believe I have been making the bigger mistakes. I have been going to showdown too much, and often been playing too passively in common situations. Well this graph shows how things have been going since I made a few adjustments to strategy.

My style numbers haven't changed a great deal, I'm playing around 14% of hands and raising 12% (common nitty tag stats for full ring). However there has been a marked increase in my aggression factor up to exactly 3 and I believe this is a very good change. Notice in the graph that the redline is looking much better. Less than a buy-in over 4k hands is a great result in this area and is entirely down to following Meteoric's example and not being afraid of turning hands into bluffs where the situation warrants it.

I have been going to showdown a fraction under 20%, and while I would actually prefer it to be a little higher there is a good chance that over a bigger sample it will head towards 21 - 22 % which is just where I'd currently like it to be. The figure closely related to this statistic is W$SD and that is only 50.9% which is a sign IMO that I haven't flopped that well.And yet I have still been a good winner over that sample.

It is my gut feeling that if I continue in this vain this style will make me money again. I'll be sure to update on things once I begin to converge upon a more meaningful sample. GL

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Big Blind Play, I Suck. #1

When faced with a button steal, I am currently folding a significant amount of the time in the big blind. If I face a standard raise at my limit of 0.75, I risk 0.5 to call. As a pure pot odds decision I need (0.5/(0.5 + 1.1)) = 0.3125 or 31% equity to call. Against a button stealer who is raising half of their hands this means from a pure pot odds perspective I could call with any two cards profitably (if there was no post flop play). Of course doing this in play would be pretty ridiculous right? Because playing out of position is bad. I wonder how much of an equity advantage playing in position gives a poker player.

Against a 50% button stealing range the following hands have better than 50% equity.
{ 44+,A2s+,K8s+,QTs+,JTs,A5o+,KTo+ }
Surely then, this is the bare minimum range of hands we should be playing in this spot? Surely being out of position cannot make up for us having hands that are favourite added to the excellent preflop pot odds we are getting?


Position, Equity and Risk of the Squeeze
So it's clear that playing in position grants some amount of non trivial equity but until NLHE is solved I don't think we'll know how much. While playing with some ranges I digressed onto playing a decent range on the button versus a 15% opening raise.

Our preflop pot odds facing a standard single raise are around 45%. Assuming the raiser is indeed raising 15% of hands the following hands have better than 45% equity:
{ 55+,ATs+,KQs,AJo+,KQo }
However since we have position then we should be able to play a wider range than this. 22 should be a call on the button I think, and their equity is 38%. Interestingly middle suited connectors do pretty poorly but many good players advocate playing them in this situation. So if we widen our calling range to hands with better than 38% equity to include 22 then we have a flatting range of:
{ 22+,A2s+,K6s+,QTs+,JTs,T9s,A3o+,KTo+ }
The most surprising hands here for me are the low rag aces. I have never seen anyone advocate flatting them in this situation. Of course they suffer from reverse implied odds so perhaps (since A3o - A8o are all very close at 38-40% equity) we can fold them. Perhaps the lower suited connectors have enough implied odds that they can be included but bear in mind that 76s has 36.6% equity preflop and this seems like a lot to make back up to me.

We must also bear in mind the risk of the squeeze. I deliberately chose the button for this analysis because it minimizes this risk. A squeeze devalues our calling range somewhat but providing it isn't happening too often we can merely exclude the most marginal hands from our button flatting range and sometimes flat with KK+ to defend the rest of our range.

So in summary, a decent button flatting range versus a 15% open will probably look something like:
{ QQ-22,A2s+,K8s+,QTs+,JTs,T9s,98s,87s,76s,ATo+,KTo+ }

Note that the 3-betting portion of this range (KK+) is just what I would be 3-betting for value against a 15% opener who is playing a 4-bet or fold style. Against someone who calls out of position we can 3-bet more hands for value.

This range definitely looks like the sort of range I've seen good players call with on the button and seems reasonable to me. In this situation that would lead me to believe that position grants an equity gain of around 7% in the current games against suboptimal opponents. Do you agree? Does this flatting range seem good to you?

EDIT: The very marginal hands in this button flatting range (suited connectors, rag suited aces, weak suited kings and weak pairs) can be difficult to play post flop and also suffer from domination. For these reasons they are probably at least as profitable when used as 3-bet bluffs. I don't think calling with them is bad however as long as we are aggressive enough post flop.

I think that doing work like this is really helping me to get a better grasp of overall strategy so I highly recommend mucking about with the excellent application HoldemViewer which is the tool I used for the analysis above. GL

Friday, 10 June 2011

2-Tabling FTW?

I was feeling tired today and so when I fired up tonight I decided to play only two tables of rush at a time. I felt that I was really able to focus on ranges, I was never rushed - no pun intended - and I thought I played my A-game the whole time. It's clear to me that I'm not good enough yet to play four tables and win at this limit, so I think it's a very good idea that unless I'm clearing bonus I should stick to this new set up until I have played another 100k hands. If I can do OK - and I see no reason why not since I should have a lower variance and more profitable style - then maybe I can think about adding in a third and fourth table again as my confidence returns. Because sometimes I forget that doubling the amount of tables (unless you're some kind of sicko) should definitely not double win rate. More simultaneous decisions mean more mistakes, so I think that it's definitely the right thing to do.

I actually think I can achieve a high return from my bluffs with this new set up and the extra time to think through the best spots (instead of just auto check folding or other automatic plays). Enough even to cancel most of the redline losses maybe (I won an insane amount of pots through aggression today). Added to this the inevitable value I will get means there is great potential there for a great win rate. I'll only be able to tell you of course if and when I have played the 100k hands. So I better get to work!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Looking For Improvement

This morning I spent some time looking through some hands from Meteoric which was really informative. I'm really grateful, so please go check out his blog!

Afterwards I ran a few filters on my own database on the last 90k hand stretch where I actually broke even after rake back. If you observe the chart I have included the red boxes highlight my biggest fundamental leaks.

1/ I lose too much from the big blind. If I was to fold every single time there was a raise I'd lose -33BB/100. EV adjusted it's better but over that sample I did no better by playing hands than I did by just folding everything. This is very very poor, and every minute of my time should now be taken up by trying to improve my big blind play. If I can fix this I'll become profitable again, it's as simple as that.

2/ I should be looking to get my button profit up over 10BB/100 and somewhere towards 15. I think the big blind leak is more significant but if I can increase my aggression here and try to go to showdown less often I think it will help turn things around.

3/ A further leak that isn't demonstrated in that chart is that I'm going to showdown too often. All of the winning databases I've seen have had that player going to showdown under 25% of the time with a nice healthy Won $ at Showdown (W$SD) number around 53-55%. The last 90k hands I ran at 27%/51%.

The whole basis of that kind of style (the one I'm trying to emulate) is that we bluff often enough to correct our no showdown line somewhat and then deliberately have a biased positive showdown % and the profit is the difference between the two. That probably sounds really obvious, but at the moment I'm clawing back enough redline money (I lose around half a buy-in every 1000 hands) and then spewing it back by going to showdown too often. All I need is to win $25 more per 1000 hands at showdown and I'd be a decent winner again.

So in summary the three focuses for my next period of play are
1/ Improve my play in the big blind
2/ Play more aggressively as the button
3/ Go to showdown less often and with a stronger average range. GL

I have also decided to readjust my ranges. Unfortunately this may make me even tighter, but let me explain. The last 50k hands or so, I've had an early position range that looks like {22+, AJs+, AQo+, KQs, T9s-76s}. I raised the suited connectors as a subset of hands that I intended to use as 4-bet bluff hands as and when I was 3-bet (or reraised) by an aggressive player. However, looking at my database these hands are losing me money because most of the time I'm playing in pots out of position with a hand that flops very little most of the time. In fact these hands have lost me an entire buy-in during that time. Many of the flops that help my hand also help my opponent, so even when I do flop something my fold equity is generally pretty low.

As a side note, suited connectors have pretty poor equity versus a standard calling range. Against {22-JJ, KQs-76s, AQs-ATs, AQo} 76s has only 36.8% equity, and that's a lot of equity we have to make back through villain's post flop mistakes - too much IMO. This is a good reason why I believe they are better hands to semi bluff raise with preflop than to call with, but only when you have positional advantage.

So as a result of this realisation I'm going to play much tighter in the EP 3 positions, going back to raising {22+, AQ+}. I'm actually beginning to believe that the smaller pocket pairs are pretty marginal too, but I'll keep them in. Now, as for four betting, I'm going to need to turn hands into bluffs to avoid exploitation so I'll choose from the ace highs and low pocket pairs.

The downside of this is obviously that my already nitty style is going to converge to an even tighter range. Probably around 13%. So what I'll do is begin to raise a few more hands from the hijack seat to compensate a little. On the flip side, the playing field has become so weak since Black Friday that preflop strategy should probably be mainly value hands anyway.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Thinking about preflop 3-betting

For a while now I have been very focussed on 3-betting (or preflop re-raising) with a polarised range. What I mean is I will find out how many hands an opponent should rationally be getting all-in with preflop - given their initial opening frequency - and 3-betting hands that have greater than 50% equity against that felting range along with a group of hands to balance my range with as a bluff. I usually choose suited connectors for this. As a simple example my standard preflop play versus a 5% raise frequency would be to 3-bet {AA, T9s, 98s} and flat with {JJ-KK, AKs}. I think that versus a 5% raise frequency this is sound strategy, and we can obviously call with more hands if our opponent is bad and therefore offers implied equity.

However looser opening ranges usually have a non trivial calling frequency both in and out of position and so things become less simple. Take a villain in late position with a wide opening range and assume this player will get all-in preflop with {AK, JJ+} but call with a bunch of broadways, suited connectors and middle pocket pairs. Suddenly we can 3-bet a ton of extra hands for value, a range like {88+, ATs+, AJo+, KQ}. These hands have greater than 50% equity against villain's calling range. But what concerns me is how we balance this play with bluffs. If villain is getting all-in with the range I mentioned before we can only felt {KK+} preflop for value. So do we just add in a few bluffs to balance this felting range or do we also need a bluff range to balance the rest of our value hands? Because including one would give us a very high 3-bet % in this situation. It would also create a significant gap between the hands we're 3-betting and the hands we're felting and this will allow our opponents to 4-bet bluff back extremely profitably.

Our opponent risks around 27bb to win 16bb when he 4-bets so he needs us to fold (27/(27+16))= 63% of the time to make money on his bluffs. Therefore we need to 5-bet all-in around 40% of the time to defend against a 4-bet. This means we would need to be turning a lot of hands into bluffs if our opponent was liberally 4-betting back and that doesn't seem quite right to me somehow. I guess I have more research to do. GL

Saturday, 4 June 2011

New Database

Just created my new database. I feel rough today (self inflicted) so I'll begin to play tomorrow. I have no plans so I will probably put in a few hours.
Getting Better
-At least until I begin to build up statistics on people again I intend to play two tables at a time with a focus on colour coding and taking notes on people. I should still get through 600 or so hands per hour which is plenty for now.
-I'm really going to start thinking about value again, and will begin to call less often on every street (barring preflop where I'm a nit anyway). For example on dry flops I've been prone to float with the very best of my unpaired hands - e.g. AKo when someone c-bets on a Q72r. But I'm going to start playing this sort of hand a little more aggressively I think; there's no harm in having a bluff heavy flop raising range since most players c-bet too often. Plus this is just the sort of hand we should be bluffing with for balance (generally hands with between 4 and 8 outs are good candidates for bluffs). I'll become especially careful when I bluff catch on the river. I definitely think that this has become a significant leak.
-Playing the big blind has been a problem for me, although I have run horribly there for probably 200k hands. Playing such a tight range in largely 3-bet pots should be getting me tons of money at showdown but I've only been winning 47% of the time. This has been the biggest cause of my break even (or slightly losing) stretch of hands. Of course I probably have not played particularly well in some spots and this is something that I will try and address. I will begin to 3-bet larger versus players who like to play implied odds (preflop calling stations in other words) and really crucify loose small blind raisers. I'll also really focus on never 'flicking it in' with marginal hands. Really, the amount of times you flop a strong hand or draw is minuscule and absolutely not worth the extra investment. It's fine to flat a loose button opener with good suited broadways and play a heads-up pot. But when an early position player opens and gets two callers, even getting great odds as you are I just don't believe that it is possible to win enough back on average to make calling here worthwhile unless you have mid pocket pairs. These are the only hands I will speculate with - probably 77-QQ.

I found a thread on 2+2 which has somehow disappeared in the last two hours - I expect the mods moved it - about someone running below EV. There were some interesting responses and graphs posted. This has made me feel much better about my bad run - these are good players who have been through much tougher swings and come back. But there was also some good advice there, recommending that you forget about all-in EV and just focus on getting better. This will be my philosophy from now on : Just play within my bankroll and try to improve. GL all

Thursday, 2 June 2011


I have taken the last few days off from poker. After the session where I completely irrationally lost my temper I thought it best to step back for a bit. Fortunately this coincided with the excellent game The Witcher 2 being released for PC which has absorbed me ever since. After this period of time off, I'm starting to feel like playing again! When I do it will be a new database. I've looked at some leaks and hopefully the next 100k hands will go a little better than the last. If I can win 20-25 buy-ins then I'll be very happy, but I'll let you know how it goes.

So Phil Ivey has filed a lawsuit versus Full Tilt poker. And just when I thought that they looked to be pulling things around after having one of their seized accounts released by the DOJ. Not sure what to make of this. He has cited the US player fund issue as his reason for doing it. While this action will not make Full Tilt go bust on it's own, it could be an indicator that the company is in more trouble than it's letting on. There seems to be a lot of scaremongering going on, but I continue to have faith that the legal teams that FT have employed are doing the right thing. Purely because I think that in any democratic court, the DOJ action will not stand up.

However as a contingency plan, it looks like pokerstars would be my next port of call should the very worst happen. I'd be gutted to lose Rush and hope that another site would take the concept on board, but I would at least be able to 12 - 16 table regular poker and hopefully see a similar number of hands.

Anyway, I'm keeping the faith Full Tilt. I sincerely hope you do not disappoint. And I also think that everyone should remember that this is the US DOJ's doing. They are the people in the wrong, and I thoroughly hope that justice is done. GL